Sri Lanka offer resistance with bat against Australia amid protests in Galle
Sri Lanka rediscovered their fight amid the chaos of loud protests and firecrackers in Galle to go to stumps on day two at 184-2 in response to Australia’s 364.
Bolstered by their efforts to run through Australia’s tail and leave Steve Smith stranded on 145 not out, the hosts enjoyed their best day of the series in the second and final Test.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne led the charge with 86 runs, combining with Kusal Mendis (84no) for Sri Lanka’s biggest second-wicket partnership against Australia.
It came on a dramatic day at Galle’s International Stadium, with thousands marching in protest outside the ground and the nation’s president fleeing his palace 125km away in Colombo.
The demonstration has left cricket something of a sideshow after months of economic crisis, but on the field the home side put up a much-needed resistance.
Bowled out in 22.5 overs last week, Sri Lanka lost just two wickets in almost triple that time on Saturday.
Karunaratne also scored double the amount of runs he did in Australia’s whole last tour, after struggling through the three-Test series in 2016.
Destroyed by Mitchell Starc back then, the opener played him well despite being roughed up once by a short ball.
He did survive chances on 18 and 35, when Starc missed a run out with one stump to aim at and Mitchell Swepson dropped a tough caught-and-bowled.
Swepson eventually got his man with one that skidded on, trapping Karunaratne late in the day. But still, the skipper set the tone in the 152-run stand with Mendis.
Mendis meanwhile played nicely through the legside, his nine boundaries highlighted by pulling and hooking Pat Cummins to the rope.
What is also undeniable is that this wicket has far less venom than the one Sri Lanka were bowled out for 113 on a week ago.
Australia’s quicks have already bowled more overs than they did in the whole first Test, with Cameron Green also getting the ball before Swepson.
They have also battled for any real movement, having the ball changed twice but not getting any significant reverse swing out of any of the three Kookaburras.
Starc was the only paceman to have success, drawing Pathum Nissanka’s edge when he angled one across the right-hander and Green pouched a nice catch at gully.
Still, Australia know this wicket will deteriorate and Mendis must make a big score like Smith to avoid a series loss.
The former Australia captain rarely looked challenged on day one or day two after bringing up his first century in exactly 18 months on Friday.
When he and Carey resumed at 298-5 on Saturday, it appeared as if Australia could build to a big score.
But after Carey reverse-swept Prabath Jayasuriya to Ramesh Mendis at a deep point on 28, Australia’s tail of Starc, Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Swepson made just 14 between them.
Jayasuriya’s figures of 6-118 were also the second best by a Sri Lankan on debut in Test history, having also got the key wicket of Marnus Labuschagne for 104 on Friday.